November 28, 2014

Passenger rail meetings begin next week

Iowans are offering their input on five proposed routes a high-speed rail system may be taking across the state and public meetings are planned next week. The passenger train would run between Omaha and Chicago. Amanda Martin, with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says they’ve been gathering data for weeks and want to share the research with the public.

“We’ve been working on a route alternative analysis report,” Martin says. “This in-person open house will illustrate the various route alternatives we have studied and the process used to evaluate the route alternatives and then the preliminary findings on the alternative analysis report.”

Martin is coordinator for the Iowa D.O.T.’s Office of Rail Transportation, Freight and Passenger Policy. She says most of the comments they’ve gotten on the routes so far have been positive. “Some of the comments have been how they plan to use the service if it becomes available, if they’re a student and they want to use it for traveling to and from home and school, or if they’re a person who wants to use it for leisure or traveling purposes, for recreation,” Martin says.

“We’re hearing comments about specific routes they prefer.” Even though it appears the project has public support, Martin says there is a lot more to look at before it becomes a reality, including approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.

“At the end of this study, we will know what route has been preferred and which route the FRA is comfortable with us moving forward with but obviously, we’ll have steps to determine if the feasibility financially with the state, how we would move forward with funding any sort of project, so all of that will be forthcoming.”

Public meetings on the five proposed routes are scheduled for May 1st in Chicago, May 2nd in Des Moines at the State Historical Society Building, and May 3rd in Council Bluffs at the Mid-America Center. Martin says the information is also available online at: “iowadot.gov“.

Comments on route alternatives will be accepted until May 21st.